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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Cruising Queen Charlotte Sound

February 27th, 2010 · No Comments

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Graeme returned to his home in Christchurch at noon Saturday. This had been the plan from the beginning of our trip to the north of the South Island of New Zealand. He took a train that follows a scenic route along the east coast of the island.

In the several days that we traveled together, Graeme was a wonderful companion and instructor. He taught me everything that I need to know to run his camper van and was also a knowledgeable and informative tour guide to his country.

But now he has left me alone in his camper van. This meant that I had to drive it, something that I had mostly avoided during the past few days that we were together.

Everybody warned me that driving on the left side would be the hard part. But it hasn’t been hard for me, especially because I had that experience when I lived four years in Kenya and Malawi.

What is hard is driving a big vehicle with a manual transmission. The camper van is bigger and heavier than my Toyota Highlander SUV, which has an operator-friendly automatic transmission. Graeme’s Mercedes Sprinter camper van is about the size of the biggest SUVs, like a Suburban.

This camper van is fully equipped except for the lack of an automatic transmission and air conditioning. New Zealand rarely needs the later, although for a few hours on Saturday afternoon back at the campground I appreciated having a picnic table in the shade.

This self-contained camper van even allows what they call “freedom camping” here. This is where you pull over to a flat spot beside a road. I haven’t done that yet, mainly because I appreciate the wi-fi in the campgrounds.

This van has electricity (when we hook it up to a power outlet in a campground), including a built-in electric heater, a sink and drinking water, a stove, a grill, and a microwave oven, a refrigerator, a toilet, a very small shower, closets, large windows and curtains, and foam couches convertible at night to two twin beds (when Graeme was here) or a large queen bed for one by using the backrests to fill in the gap between them. Everything a boy could want!

On Saturday afternoon after Graeme left I took a catamaran cruise for four hours from Picton through Queen Charlotte Sound on the Endeavor Express. This was a perfect day for an ocean cruise — no wind, much sun, and in fact not a cloud in the sky.

Traveling alone, I wasn’t lonely, because I met many people on the ship, as single travelers often do. The Endeavor Express serves backpackers who are hiking part of the Queen Charlotte track, vacationers in resorts along the sound, and people who live in cabins there.

A Good Place for a Hermit to Live

A Good Place for a Hermit to Live

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The first people I met were two people returning to their cabins after shopping in Picton.

Nigel Returns to His Home in Tawa Cove

Nigel Returns to His Home in Tawa Cove

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This young lady was returning on the ship after spending a few days in a lodge on the sound:

Nicole from Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Nicole from Vancouver, B.C., Canada

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And here is the captain and his ship when we returned to Picton after four hours on the water:

The Captain and His Ship

The Captain and His Ship

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Back at Picton my last photo of the day was of yet another ferry arriving from the North Island. Here are ships and boats of all sizes, including many sailboats in the distance that look like white dots.

Picton Harbor

Picton Harbor

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Now that I am traveling alone I miss Graeme’s friendship, companionship, and good humor. But when I return to Christchurch in a few days to a week, we will have the opportunity to travel together again.

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